Random Acts Of Birding

While doing some digiscoping around Cape May, I found a cooperative flock of yellow-rumped warblers. These are such a challenge to photograph and finding a big flock of butter butts is always a good practice. I remember when I first started digiscoping, I thought warblers would be impossible. But after lots of practice, it is possible to get a warbler shot. Maybe one day this will all pay off and I'll be posting a blackburnian warbler?

It was a fairly busy day when I was taking these photos, it was beautiful fall weather and lots of people were out--even non birders. Some people were really polite, they'd pause to let me get the shot before continuing on the trail past me. People are generally curious when they see you with a large scope and want to know what you're looking at. Some are surprised that it's a bird and not some mammal. Some are surprised that it's a brown bird. Many are happy to tell you about other birds they've seen that they think you would rather photograph--the most common being the bald eagle.

I like to set weird goals for myself. Something like trying to get a shot of the red eye on a coot. But often people passing by, I think feel sorry for me for going after something like a coot and want to tell me about the bald eagle they just saw. When I was taking photos of the butter butts above, a couple passing on the trail kept encouraging me to head towards the beach to get a photo of the bald eagle flying around the beach. I thanked them and went back to the warblers, but they insisted, "That eagle isn't going to be there all day, you should go now!" I thanked them and stayed put, but the man pressed me to go for the eagle. I finally said, "I appreciate that, but I live in Minnesota, we have the largest breeding population of bald eagles in the lower 48. I've seen 'em."

I feel bad, eagles shouldn't be taken for granted and I love seeing them and I don't want to minimize someone's eagle sighting--but darn it, I'm after more difficult fish (er-birds). When I'm digiscoping at Carpenter Nature Center, I periodically run into a guy who regularly walks the trails and is always trying to get me to go take eagle photos. The best part is that he also is ready to interpret bald eagles for me: how long it takes for them to get the white head and tail, their mating habits, prey items, pretty much an abbreviated program of what I would give at The Raptor Center. I often think that he should sign up to be a volunteer there--he's full of info and ready to share it with the world.

I am just of guilty of doing these impromptu bird interpretive sessions. While digiscoping some ducks at The Meadows in Cape May, I heard a group of ladies walking by who were trying to identify all the ducks I was photographing. They didn't have a field guide with them and they were trying to remember what they'd seen so far, so they could identify it later. I was happy to say, "Hey, those are pintails, if you want, you can look at them through my scope."

And I was happy to point out other birds I speculated the had not noticed, "If you're interested, there's a male hooded merganser loafing on a mound, check him out through my scope." They seemed very excited and that just kind of goaded me on, what other waterfowl could I point out to them? Why, how about my favorite duck:

the gadwall! And it's about the time that I start pointing out the all gray duck that I realized I was getting that polite look of "Okay, you've been really nice, but please let us go on our way."

So, why this undeniable need to interpret? Is it to try and recruit more birders? Is because we are all so excited by what we see (no matter what our birding level) that we must share it? Is this some sort of lek behavior, "Gee whiz, look at how much I know!"

Anyone else out there ready to interpret birds at a moment's notice?